Sequestration Slashes Programs That Help Unemployed Find Jobs

July 09, 2013

Even with unemployment remaining stubbornly high, programs that help workers gain the support and skills they need to get new jobs are bracing for severe cuts thanks to sequestration. A report released on Tuesday from the National Skills Coalition (NSC) found that workforce training and support programs, which have already dealt with drastic cuts to funding over the past decade, are facing very difficult decisions as sequestration begins to hit their budgets.

More than 35 percent of the programs NSC surveyed were expecting at least a 25 percent cut to their funding thanks to sequestration. Only 15 percent anticipated that they would be spared completely. As a result of the reductions, more than 65 percent plan to reduce the number of people they admit to training programs and 16 percent will eliminate programs altogether. Half plan to lay off staff or leave open positions unfilled and nearly 20 percent plan to turn to furloughs.

For example, YMCA Training Inc., which has locations in Boston, Indianapolis, and Newark, will lose more than half of its federal funding this year thanks to sequestration, which means laying off staff and leaving open positions unfilled. In August, 45-50 people are supposed to receive job training through the organization, but few will actually get it thanks to the cuts. Under normal conditions, the SuperJobs Center in Cincinnati has aided more than 5,000 jobseekers with services such as resume building and online job searching, helping 665 people find jobs. But it will see its budget cut by 26 percent, forcing it to suspend all training for jobseekers, reduce youth services, and institute significant staff reductions.

The cuts come at a time of peak demand for these services. Nearly 75 percent of the programs report an increase in workers seeking employment and job training help. More than half have seen demand jump by over 25 percent.

Yet they have already been grappling with budget cuts for some time. Workforce programs have lost $1 billion in federal funding, or more than 30 percent, since 2010. As a result, more than 65 percent of the programs report their federal funding being slashed by more than 25 percent over the past three years. These prior reductions have already led to difficult choices. More than 20 percent had completely eliminated one or more of their job training programs, while two-thirds reduced the number of participants who could enroll in training. A summer youth program in Oregon dropped from 1,300 participants to just 500, while another completely was completely eliminated. Nearly 20 percent reported closing facilities and 15 percent had to reduce operating hours, while 65 percent had to reduce many core services.

Things could get even worse under some proposed 2014 budgets, however. Sequestration cuts would quadruple under allocations in the House budget. This would mean more than six million people losing access to workforce services in a single year.